With Opening Night now nearly two weeks earlier than in the past, that means training camp is likely to open a month from this weekend, around mid-September instead of the traditional late September start. No dates have been announced, but the wait for the season start is now officially less than what it has been. And that is a good thing.
A quiet time in HSS offices (but not on the courts)
Not much going on in the management offices this week at HSS Training Center, but on the court and in the performance team areas, it was another story. A lot of players are working out a lot. It matters. Several of the (many) players interviewed this week mentioned the importance of the camaraderie.
“Everyone is committed to trying to get the work in, being together,” Joe Harris told CBS Local Sports. “So many times in the NBA, you see guys go their separate ways in the off-season, want to work with their individual trainers, wherever that might be, work out in their hometown spots.
“So the fact we’ve been working together the majority of the summer speaks to how everybody wants to get better individually but also collectively, trying to get better as a team. At the end of the day, we all understand that what we do as a team is going to help us all collectively more than us going out individually.”
In particular, Harris noted that D’Angelo Russell has been around a lot working hard.
“D’Angelo is an awesome guy. He’s been around quite a bit. A lot of the younger guys with the Nets have been around quite a bit and we even spent some time together in Las Vegas when everyone was in summer league.”
Russell told WFAN’s Joe and Evan that he has indeed been trying to spend time with his new teammates.
“Yeah I think this is where it starts… in the summertime,” Russell told Evan Roberts. “Like you said I was playing with two of my teammates [at Dyckman]. Just being around the guys is where it starts so I try to be around the guys as much as possible.”
“I think we have an underrated group of guys; we have a good group of vets sprinkled in there and then we got some young talent that still got urgency so I feel like we can definitely put something together.”
The Nets players have also paired off and gone off to work on their games and relationships. Sean Kilpatrick and LeVert worked out with Kevin Durant and Steve Nash in California (arranged by Adam Harrington, the Nets player development director and a good friend of KD’s). LeVert joined Jeremy Lin on his tour of Taiwan, helping his teammate run his camps on the other side of the Pacific.
The Nets have also integrated their young kids into the culture. It may seem a little thing to fans, but Ouatarra was impressed that he was invited to Las Vegas with six veterans to watch the Summer League, join a team dinner ... and work out. He likely won’t be back in Brooklyn until September, after Team France finishes up with FIBA Eurobasket. But management made sure he got to meet and greet his teammates before he left for France.
As we’ve noted before, the Nets have not signed a free agent (yet) this summer other than two camp invites on small partial deals —Jeremy Senglin and Milton Doyle— and two G-League two-way deals —Yakuba “Billy” Ouatarra and Jacob Wiley.
And they probably won’t sign anyone else to anything other than a partially guaranteed deal. With the talent level what it is at the end of August, free agents have few options and teams have little cap space.
Still. there’s always a possibility of a trade. There are still four restricted free agents, all big men, who could be traded and...
—The Nets still have not renounced Randy Foye who can be packaged in a sign-and-trade for as much as $3 million.
—The Nets still have around $5 million to $6 million in cap space.
—The Nets still have two roster spaces open. Teams can bring as many as 20 players into camp and even with the four partial deals signed this summer, they have 18 players under contract.
—The Nets still have a big expiring deal, Trevor Booker’s $9.13 million.
—The Nets still have five players on partial guarantees —the summer signings and Spencer Dinwiddie, none of whom are owed more than $50,000.
—The Nets still have a total of eight players on vets minimum deals —the five players on partial guarantees as well as Quincy Acy, Sean Kilpatrick and Joe Harris, none of whom makes more than $1.71 million (Acy).
—The Nets still have $5.1 million in cash considerations they can use to sweeten a deal. (The Nets usually hold on to cash considerations to buy second rounders, but may not feel the need this season since they’re likely to have two high second rounders.)
—And the Nets still appear to be the “talent acquisition” mode, as Sean Marks puts it, meaning fans may want a big, but the front office is looking for talent ... at any position.
So, they are certainly not without assets. The problem is that there’s not a lot of targets out there. There’s been no movement on the five big RFA’s: Nerlens Noel of Dallas, Mason Plumlee of Denver, Alex Len of Phoenix, Nikola Mirotic of Chicago and JaMychal Green of Memphis. Players have until October 1 to accept qualifying offers which would pay them considerably less than what they want and for only one year. Next summer, unless they have big years, they’ll all be a year older and could be in the same situation: next’s cap space will be even tighter. No doubt agents are trying to find deals for them, but their teams have little motivation to go along if they can get the players cheap for an QO.
As for the unrestricted free agents, four of them dropped off the board this week: Jordan Mickey was signed by Miami; Marshall Plumlee by the Clippers: Adriean Payne by Orlando; and Jeff Withey by Dallas. We have no idea if the Nets were interested in any of them or whether they were interested in the Nets. Only Mickey has a fully guaranteed deal.
So who does that leave among the UFA bigs? Veterans Boris Diaw and David Lee as well as three intriguing possibilities if healthy: Jared Sullinger, Ty Zeller and Festus Ezeli. Sullinger and Zeller appear fine. We don’t know Ezeli’s status. The 27-year-old lobs-and-blocks specialist has been troubled with knee issues. There was a rumor from Marc Stein last February that the Nets would have traded for Ezeli if Portland threw in a pick. The Blazers released Ezeli instead, playing the remainder of last year’s salary and a $1 million guarantee on this year.
There is NO need to panic. Nets could hold on to their assets till near October 1 waiting on the RFA’s or wait until the Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving situations clear up.
And one more thing when thinking about bigs. The Nets are quite high on Acy’s potential. Expect him to see more minutes this season.
Tom Haberstroh of ESPN is our friend. He’s one of 44 ESPN “experts” who were asked their opinions on various aspects of the coming season, the annual “Summer Forecast.” Categories include “First-Time All-Stars” to “Worst Newcomers” to Team Turmoil.”
Haberstroh is also part of a more select group of experts who’ve been asked bigger questions like which team will outperform expectations and which will underperform.
While his colleagues chose established teams in both categories, Haberstroh went outside the box on which team will outperform in the East.
Brooklyn Nets. All aboard the Nets' bandwagon! D'Angelo Russell's game far exceeds his reputation, and he's still just 21 years old. Allen Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll came at a steep cost for the front office, but the actual basketball players will vastly improve the win column from just 20 wins last season. With the Nets' coaching staff and a healthy Jeremy Lin, this team should exceed the 30-win plateau. Prediction of the century, I know.
In the west, Haberstroh is going with Utah, a wise choice in our estimation.
Nets players didn’t make any of the “top five” lists but D’Angelo Russell just missed in “best newcomer,” finishing sixth behind Paul Millsap of the Nuggets. DeMarre Carroll finished ninth in “worse newcomer.” Russell finished 18th in that category and Allen Crabbe 23rd. Jarrett Allen got no love, meaning no votes, in the Rookie of the Year voting.
ESPN also projects the Nets at 26-56 and just percentage points above the Bulls.
The Nets edged the Bulls by mere percentage points to avoid the cellar for the second consecutive year, thanks to a forecast that sees Brooklyn adding six wins from its total a season ago. Some of that can be attributed to the additions of D'Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll, but it also helps that the Nets have no incentive to tank -- they owe their pick to the Celtics no matter what.
Thanks for reminding us.
Terror and Basketball
Last week was marked by two terrorist attacks — domestically in Charlottesville and internationally in Barcelona. They deeply affected two members of the Nets family, Joe Harris who played four years in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia, and Aleksandar Vezenkov, the Nets stash who still plays for F.C. Barcelona. Both spoke about the shock of the attacks and who it will affect them...
“Obviously, as you said, it was horrific, crazy, really sad to see,” said Harris on CBS Local Sports. “It happened in a place where I spent four years of my life. A lot of stuff was happening on campus, in the downtown mall area where I spent a considerable amount of my time. It was difficult to see. You obviously check in with everyone you know down there to see if they’re doing already, handling the situation okay.”
Harris also endorsed using the attack aftermath to endorse the values of the university.
“It’s also the job of all the guys who went to school there who have this platform there, whether they be professional athletes or whatever they might be to speak out. There’s a whole in the community,” he told CBS.
Harris in particular commended his UVA coach, Tony Bennett for what he said in the aftermath, endorsing “diversity and unity to the fullest extent,” noting “when those two things come together, something beautiful and triumphant comes out of it...”
Harris called Bennett “as good of a person as you’ll ever meet in your life.
In Bulgaria, where he just completed the FIBA World Cup pre-qualifiers, Vezenkov also expressed shock at an attack in a place he knows well.
"I can say that I am shocked because thousands of tourists walk this boulevard, and no one believed it would happen," Vezenkov told a local newspaper.
Vesenkov added that while he was shocked by the events in the Catalan capital, he was determined that he would return to Spain without fear.
"I do not come back stressed or scared, but with good feelings. Everyday life continues for me, "added Barcelona's Bulgarian star.
Speaking of Vezenko, Juan Carlos Navarro, the legendary Spanish league hoopster. told the Bulgarian press this about the Nets stash... “He's the first in and last out of practice, and he motivates everyone in our team.
“I understand he played great for your national team and has a great future if it continues," Navarro added
And now for something completely positive
Trevor Booker has long been known as the Nets entrepreneur, with investments in a variety of companies. Jeremy Lin invested in an esports team. And now, Sean Kilpatrick, in a juice and smoothie bar called The Juice Lab in his hometown of White Plains.
And it was inspired by Kevin Durant, Sean Marks and the Nets performance team.
"I was a bad eater. I was one of those chicken-tender-and-fries guys," Kilpatrick told the Westchester newspapers. "And, it's kind of funny, because Kevin Durant and I went out to eat and he said, 'Y'know, you can't eat chicken nuggets and Coke for the rest of your life.' It was something that I really thought about."
"Mr. Marks, my GM, challenged me to change my body," he said. "And once he put that into my head... everything just jumped off from there...
"It's kind of crazy because when I was eating the nuggets and fries, it would slow me down," Kilpatrick, Jr. continued. "Now I feel a new burst of energy running up and down the court. I don't get tired."
That was enough to get him think about how he could help his community and himself.
"At the Nets, we have a nutritionist and a strengthening and conditioning coach," said Kilpatrick, thinking his Juice Lab could help community members maintain a healthy diet. "So, this is really for the community. People aren't getting the correct nutrition across the country, and this will make it a little bit easier in White Plains."
His father, Sean Kilpatrick, Sr., manages the shop, while his son commutes back and forth to Brooklyn and beyond. (Kilpatrick, as best we can tell, is the only Nets player who lives outside Brooklyn.)
"We're always together — this is no different from when I would stay with him in Cincy so I could be at every game. I'm his father and that's what you do," said Kilpatrick, Sr., pulling out his iPhone: the I.D. that appears for his son's number is "Li'l me."
Elisa Padilla, the Nets chief marketing officer, is headed to Apple for a new job. Padilla will be the new Head of Product Launch in the Communications & Global Events at Apple. Padilla was a big part of the Brooklyn Brigade’s success. As the Brigade noted in its farewell.
The Nets will have a hard time replacing Padilla. So good luck to them as well!!!